Kids are their own people. Any of us can see this is an underlying theme in drama (in books, on the screen, and in real life dramas). It’s obvious from a quick look at how much our friends differ from their own parents. Years ago I joked that my anti-establishment neighbor’s son might just grow up to be a conservative stockbroker and that my frantically risk-averse friend could end up with a thrill-seeking daughter. I learned pretty quickly such jokes are not appreciated.
But I thought I understood that kids go their own way reasonably well. I’ve managed to celebrate the unique passions my own kids pursue, even though their interests are nothing like mine. I’m glad to see that we’re largely in sync on bigger issues. My kids and I tend to agree on politics and religion, we share a disinterest in most sports, and we’re all somewhat introverted. What we don’t share? A desire to stay close to our roots, geographically speaking. I’ve tried to raise them to be global citizens. Is it possible to take that too far? I’ve always lived close to my hometown and extended family. One or two of my four kids may not have that gene.
One of my sons is entranced by Finland. I think it started while chatting with online Finnish friends. Hankering to drive, he told me that kids in Finland are encouraged to get driving experience starting at a very young age and given training to handle slippery and hazardous road conditions (ice + moose, for example). The licensing requirements are some of the strictest in the world, he explained, a pointed contrast to the jerk on the road in front of us at the time who was cutting off cars and weaving across lanes.
My son also has a thing for Finnish music, starting with the now iconic band Apocalyptica formed by classically trained cellists.
Finnish musicians offer plenty of diversity, including partially submerged folk singers
and dancing puffballs.
And he is inspired by the Finnish spirit. He sees it in their traditions and history (I never thought I’d hear so much about the Winter War). Finnish character is said to have a lot to do with the term sisu. This doesn’t translate easily. It’s related to inner will and the determination to persist despite the odds. This spirit, as my son sees it, also has to do with the Finnish way of doing things. That includes summer competitions that Finns call “world championships” in swamp soccer, mobile phone throwing, and wife carrying. Or a recent proposal in Parliament to extend the annual four-week paid holiday by another week, for a “love holiday.”
Browsing around the web, I can see the allure. The country has stunning beauty and cultural richness. Newsweek ranked Finland the world’s best country in 2010 based on high life expectancy, high literacy rates, minimal income gap, excellent access to health care, and a good work-leisure balance. In The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World it was noted that people in Finland are remarkably content. Of course we’ve all heard about Finland’s world-class school system. Their educational approach says quite a bit about the country. Schools there don’t rely on standardized tests or a heavy homework load but instead emphasize balance, giving kids plenty of time for outdoor play, art, and music. That seems to reflect a general emphasis on living at a slower pace and enjoying life’s simpler pleasures. I may have to adjust to having one of my beloved offspring emigrate some day. (sob)
But another of my kids is talking up New Zealand. Land of fascinating spider species, amazing diversity, and gorgeous vistas.
Also home to the compelling Haka, traditional ancestral war cry of the Maori people, now performed by the All Blacks, NZ’s rugby team, before their matches.
Serves me right for joking about other people’s children. Come to think of it, my attempts at humor weren’t all that far off. My anti-establishment neighbor’s son is now in college getting a degree in business, hoping to work in investment banking. The daughter of my risk-averse friend is into barefoot climbing.
Guess I’d better make sure my passport is in order.